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HKU Case Study: Margaret

Hong Kong, dubbed Asia’s World City, is an amazing place to live and study in. From its highly reputable medical schools to its extremely efficient transportation systems to its vibrant and lively neighbourhoods, studying medicine in Hong Kong is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.

What’s it like studying in Hong Kong at HKU?

Because it’s such a tiny city, Hong Kong only has two medical schools — the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) — it’s either one or the other.

A cohort at each university has a little over two hundred students, totalling upwards of four hundred medical students in a single year in the whole city.  The beauty of this is that medical students from both universities end up getting to know each other very well throughout the years, whether it be through mutual friends or joint-university workshops.

In fact, many medical student organisations (e.g. Asian Medical Students’ Association (AMSAHK) or Medical Outreachers (MO)) include students from both universities on its executive committees, and events are often held on both campuses.

Regardless of whichever medical school you attend, you will definitely not end up isolated there. As hopeful future medical professionals, cooperation and collaboration are crucial, and you will end up working with colleagues CUHK if you are an HKU graduate and vice versa, so this is a great way to promote teamwork from the get-go. You will quickly realise that it’s truly a small world after all!

Read more about studying at HKU>>

Do you need to speak English and Cantonese?

English is the medium of instruction at both universities, however, Cantonese is the de facto language in Hong Kong. The reality is, most medical professionals in the city need to be able to speak Cantonese fluently in order to communicate with patients.

Although all the technical details in medicine such as drug names are described in English, it is crucial to be able to explain basic concepts of health in Cantonese in layman’s terms for patients. For students who studied high school at international schools or abroad, this may be a bit of a challenge, however, both medical schools offer ample support in this area.

In fact, the University of Hong Kong requires their medical students to take a course in functional Chinese, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong also has courses especially for students from non-Cantonese backgrounds to help students better their language skills.

How is traditional Chinese medicine used?

Another unique cultural aspect of Hong Kong is its use of traditional Chinese medicine. Although there are institutions offering Chinese medicine programmes in Hong Kong, it is still necessary for medical students and future professionals in Western medicine to understand some of the basics of the Chinese counterpart.

The reason for this is because there are patients do ask questions such as whether Chinese and Western medications can be taken concurrently, so understanding the fundamental principles of the different practices in Chinese medicine can be immensely helpful in caring for the patient. The University of Hong Kong actually has integrates a short mandatory course in Chinese medicine in Year 2 to get students caught up to speed.

Read another student’s account of studying at HKU>>

What are tuition fees like?

Both the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong are public universities, meaning that tuition fees are highly attractive as they are heavily subsidised by the government — the current annual tuition is HKD 42,100 or GBP 4,104.

This may be an important point to consider for those choosing between going to medical school in Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world. For international students, transitioning to a local institution may be slightly challenging because of the different culture.

How easy was it to settle in?

Although I studied at an international school in Hong Kong, I still found it difficult in my first year to understand the slang that my classmates used as well as the different habits and traditions. It will take some time to adjust and adapt to this new environment, and during this transition, it is especially important to keep an open mind and an open heart.

Choosing where to study is no easy decision, and I would advise any prospective medical student going through this difficult process to really think about their needs and priorities, and which medical school best fits these. You will be studying there for at least five years – in most cases it’s six – so make sure that you select the school that is truly the right fit for you.

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